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Senate passes sexual harassment bill, pegs 14-year jail term for predators in tertiary institutions

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to prohibit, prevent  and tackle sexual harassment of students in the tertiary educational institutions.

The bill has pegged  14 years jail term, with a minimum of 5 years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.

The bill, when finally granted assent by President Muhammadu Buhari will penalise the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent.

Tagged “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019,” with 27 clauses, it is sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege.

The bill defines sexual offences as including: sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student or intimidating or creating a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex or making sexual advances.

Other forms of sexual harassment identified in the bill are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student; or sending by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student or screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student.

 Senator Omo-Agege, had explained that “the most effective way to deal with the offence of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions is to penalise the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent.”

According to him, sexual harassment must be defined in tertiary educational institutions as statutory rape with strict liability for offenders to be prosecuted easily.

On the extension of the bill to primary, secondary schools, worship centres and work place, Omo-Agege said doing so will not be necessary because the Criminal and Penal codes already adequately deals with these categories with sufficient clarity.

He, however, stressed that the bill prescribes expulsion for students who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassment.

He said, “An educator whose character is maligned is at liberty to sue for defamation under the law of defamation which is well-settled in our jurisprudence and needs no duplication in this bill.”

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan in his comment described the bill as a landmark legislation and said if finally signed into law by the President, cases of sexual harassment especially in tertiary institutions, will become a thing of the past.

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